2016-11-17 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Last week’s “Pets” gave an over­view of the “One Health” concept which fosters collaboration when studying overlapping issues in hu­man, animal and environmen­tal health. Doctors, veterinarians and scientists share findings and learn from each other.

Nov. 3 was the first “Global One Health Day” celebrated around the world with seminars and workshops at 140 sci­entific and medical institutions. This week’s column will focus on Lyme disease, one of three afflictions spotlighted during the conference at The Animal Medical Center (The AMC) in NYC.

Dr. Richard Goldstein is the chief medical officer at The AMC and a world-renowned expert on infectious disease in dogs and cats, especially those affecting the kidneys such as Lyme disease and leptospirosis. He said: “Lyme is the most common tick-borne infectious dis­ease we encounter other than flu. The good news is that with early diagnosis Lyme can be cured. The bad news is that dog diagnosis is bet­ter than detection in humans because we have better tools for detecting Lyme Disease in dogs than what is currently available for humans.”

Lyme was discovered in Old Lyme, CT in the 1970s but a similar Lyme-like illness was known in Europe dating back to the late 1800s. The spirochete bacte­ria ingested by the deer tick is the infectious culprit. It’s similar in structure to the bacteria causing peri­odontal disease. Ticks go through four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, adult. Each stage requires a blood meal. Mice are often blood reservoir for larvae. Peo­ple tend to be infected during the nymph stage in the spring. The nymph needs to be embedded 48 hours to infect. Dogs are more apt to be infected in the sum­mer during the adult tick stage.

Tick prevention should be year round. Ticks be­come dormant, yet do not die when it’s cold. If we get a warm day in January, they’re active again. Cas­es of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses are on the rise for several reasons including climate change and larger mouse and deer populations. Even Florida has Lyme cases now. Dr. Goldstein urges those bitten to save the tick or provide photos because different ticks can carry other diseas­es. The Tick Encounter site provided by the University of RI accepts photos or ticks sent in plastic bags.

Although the CDC has made Lyme reportable in all 50 states, physicians only report about 10% of hu­man cases which amount to around 30,000 each year, whereas a mathematical model projects the true num­ber to be as high as 600,000 cases annually. In contrast, more vets screen dogs for tick diseases which generates a higher prevalence. In 2015, one out of 16 dogs screened tested positive for Lyme, and other tick illnesses like erlichiosis, anaplasmosis or babesiosis. (Rocky Mountain fever is caused by a dif­ferent tick.)

About 70% of people ex­posed to Lyme get the bull’seye rash. The red circles are caused by the bacteria ir­ritating under the skin. The rash doesn’t itch which makes it easier to miss. It goes away in a month. If dis­covered right away, Lyme can be cured with an­tibiotics. When undetected, Lyme can cause flu-like symptoms which can lead to joint pain and neurologi­cal signs such as numbness in arms and legs.

Dogs do not develop a bull’s-eye rash, even on their bald bellies. Without treatment with doxcycline, two months later dogs develop joint pain and fever. Dogs do not experience the neurological signs like people but untreated Lyme causes kidney disease (Lyme nephri­tis) in 1-2% of dogs. Labs and Golden Retriev­ers are most affected by kidney problems, but every breed is at risk.

Some animals may be affected by Lyme Disease more than others. Horses develop Lyme Disease but cows don’t. Anoth­er One Health study is trying to de­termine why cows are protected from deer ticks.

It’s crucial all dogs and horses be tested for tick ail­ments. There are tests that screen for vector-borne disease -heartworm (from mosquitoes) and tick-borne diseases in the vet’s of­fice. Nothing like this ex­ists for people who are instead tested with a PCR test which identifies the DNA of bacteria in blood. A vet in Portland, Maine screens cats for Lyme.

Treatment for dogs and people is some­what similar. Dogs get doxy, penicillin or cephalexin for 30 days. Sometimes they are given two injections of Convenia, an antibiotic which lasts two weeks. Peo­ple receive doxy but patients with acute Lyme may be put on IV antibiotics. Dr. Goldstein suggested going to an infectious disease specialist if your symptoms persist.

Prevention is the key to controlling Lyme. Amaz­ing diagnostic tools exist to detect Lyme Disease in animals while only limited ones are available for us. People can wear repellent clothing, pull their socks over their long pants or use DEET. They should also check themselves for ticks. To help pets and curtail ticks in the yard, lawns should be kept short because ticks are sensitive to dehydration.

Dog preventives include spot on liq­uids, collars and oral prod­ucts. People and pets can be re-infected with Lyme over and over. We tend to re-visit the same places. Re-infection is serious. One study showed people with recurrent signs got Lyme eight times in a 10-year period.

There is no human Lyme vaccine. Developing a vaccine is difficult because the pathogen varies and can look different in many ways. However, there is a new, effective Lyme vaccine for dogs from Zoetis which does recognize the variants. For the time be­ing, we need to be cognizant when venturing into tick-in­fested areas, check ourselves and pets for ticks and not ignore any new rash.

Babylon Shelter Adoptables (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Pan” 6-486 is a beautiful semi-longhaired kitten beseeching visitors to notice her. She likes other cats. Shepherd mix “Brownie” 16-596 is back at the shelter after six years because his be­loved owner died. He is outgoing and likes to show off his tricks like catching treats in mid air.

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